Our Staff

Beth Porter, Executive Director

Beth joined Giant Steps in the summer of 2011.  She brings 25 years of nonprofit administration and leadership to Giant Steps, and has worked with a variety of organizations including arts, education, and political action programs.  Through her career she has developed skills in fundraising, program design and management, strategic planning, board development, and staff coaching.  Beth has her B.A. in Sociology and Japanese from Middlebury College and her M.A. in Asia Pacific Studies from the University of San Francisco. When she is not at Giant Steps, she is kept busy by her two- and four-footed children.

Jen McWherter, Head Instructor

Jen has been involved in therapeutic riding for over 15 years.  She grew up riding bareback in Australia, and after moving to Birmingham, AL she started volunteering with Special Equestrians, Inc.  She became volunteer coordinator for Special Equestrians, and in 2006 became a certified riding instructor.  Jen and her family relocated to California in 2011 and she sought out a place to continue her therapeutic riding career.  Luckily she found Giant Steps and started volunteering and teaching here soon after her arrival in Sonoma County.

Julie Larson, Program Director

Julie Larson, a PATH International Certified Registered Instructor, started volunteering at Giant Steps in Fall 2009.  She graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and served as a veterinarian’s assistant for three years. She loves working with children and youth of all ages and has a son named Henry. She enjoys trail riding with her two quarter horses Nikawa and Stanley and loves all animals.  Julie loves the outdoors, especially going to the beach or the mountains with her son and her dog, Daisy. Julie is also serving as the Regional Representative  for the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship. You can reach her via email HERE or call her a the riding center.

Meghan Farley, Volunteer Coordinator

Born in Portland, Oregon, and raised in Lakeport, California, Meghan graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2002 with a degree in Community Studies and an emphasis on violence against women. After college, Meghan moved to South Korea for a year where she taught English as a second language. Upon her return to the states, she apprenticed as a pastry chef in Napa Valley, and spent the next nine years baking and working in the wine industry. In 2015, after some soul searching, Meghan found her true calling, the world of therapeutic equestrian work and riding. Joining Giant Steps is Meghan's leap down her new path.  You can reach her by email here, or call her at the riding center.

Katherine Theus, Development & Communications Assistant

Katherine joined Giant Steps in early 2016 as the Development and Communications Assistant. She comes with a background in both development and equine management. She has worked with various non-profits all over the world, including Ghana, Ecuador, and New Zealand, and most recently been involved in equine exercise and rehab assistance in Marin County. She has a B.S. in Journalism and a Minor in Spanish from Boston University, and when not at the office can be found on the dance floor, her motorcycle or one of her two horses, Houdina and Spritz.  Reach her by email here, or call her at the office at extension 11.

Tucker Ricioli, Office Manager

Tucker has a BA in psychology and joined the team after working for five years as the Course Manager for a leadership development institute.  The position at Giant Steps seems to be a perfect blend of her past in-office skills & experiences, and her love of working with people and horses.  She feels particularly drawn to equine therapy, after having worked at a similar therapeutic vaulting organization in the Los Angeles area throughout high school and college.  Tucker feels privileged to return to such an environment – the determination and joy of the students, the generosity of the volunteers, the dedication of the staff, and the gentle patience of the horses.  “There is just something special about the bond between humans and horses!” Tucker deals with all rider payments, scholarship applications, office volunteers, and accounts payable. If you have any questions for Tucker, reach her via email HERE, or call her at the office at extension 10.

Sean Willer, Facilities Manager

Sean joined Giant Steps as a volunteer in 2009, after spending 19 years with the United Parcel Service. He became a PATH International Certified Registered Instructor in 2014, and the Giant Steps Facilities Manager in 2015. He holds an Associate’s Degree in Animal Science from Santa Rosa Junior College, and attended UC Davis, emphasizing in Equine Science. He is responsible for equipment design and construction, ensuring ADA compliance, and ongoing upkeep of our property at Riverside Equestrian Center.

 

Cynthia Bartel, Bookkeeper

Cynthia brings 30 years of bookkeeping experience with both businesses and non-profit organizations.  For the past nine years, Cynthia has worked as an independent contractor for a variety of North Bay businesses. When Cynthia is not working, she enjoys gardening, cooking, and playing with her spunky little dog.  Three more fun facts about Cynthia: she is a native Californian, she was a competitive softball player, and she has one son, who works at Yelp.  Cynthia works in our administrative office on Wednesdays. You can reach her via email HERE, or call her at the office.